Deafness in Dogs

Deafness in dogs often gives way to many unfounded rumors and theories - namely that a deaf dog becomes aggressive by biting and attacking because he cannot hear. While any dog can develop this type of behavior, deaf or not, it's a common misconception that deaf dogs turn aggressive or defensive simply because they can't hear. Most deaf dogs still remain in loving homes and are familiar enough with their surroundings and family to not be completely shaken by their loss of hearing.

When a dog does become defensive or aggressive because of his disability, it's typically because he has been out on his own or has found it more difficult to defend himself because of his disability. This instinct and behavior is not commonly found in house dogs with loving families.

How Deafness Occurs in Dogs

Deafness in dogs can be categorized in two ways: conductive or neurologic. These two different causes of deafness both have the same affect in that a dog looses his ability to hear in one or both ears. Determining which type of deafness is present in a dog can only be detected by thorough diagnostic testing.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when the inner or outer portion of the ear becomes affected by a particular incident, leading to deafness. Examples of this type of hearing loss include ear injury, excessive wax build up and ear infections. While an excessive buildup of wax in the ear takes a relatively long time to cause deafness, injury and ear infections can quickly lead to deafness if they're not controlled.

Neurological deafness is caused by defects of the inner ear or the nerves leading to the brain.

Warning Signs of Deafness

Deafness in dogs is usually detectable to a dog owner. While it may initially appear as though a dog is no longer listening to or obeying commands, it will quickly become apparent by his actions that he can no longer hear the commands.

Another common sign of deafness is when a dog seems to be confused by the commands that he's given and moves his head erratically in search of noise. Under normal conditions, a dog would respond when called. When he is deaf, he may continue to scan the room to try to determine if anyone is calling for him.

Diagnosis with BAER Testing

The BAER test is the only way to make a diagnosis of deafness in a dog. The BAER test, which stands for Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response, monitors the electrical activity in the brain related to hearing. This testing method is effective at determining the cause of deafness when it's neurological.

BAER testing is a more scientific and accurate way of diagnosing deafness, but most dog owners don't need this level of sophistication to detect deafness in their dog. Most of the signs are easy to pick up on and most owners will concur from the signs that their dog is deaf.

Treating Deafness in Dogs

There is typically no way to cure deafness in dogs; however, minor amounts of hearing can sometimes be restored if the cause is conductive. When a dog is born with an abnormality of the inner structure or nerves of the ear, there is no way to surgical restore that abnormality, and deafness will continue for life. If the cause is conductive, methods such as treating dangerous ear infections or repairing the damage of an ear injury can sometimes restore a portion of a dog's hearing, assuming that the inner structures of the ear have not been too severely damaged to correct.